Wednesday, May 20, 2015

For Many American States, It's Like the Recession Never Ended

Bloomberg Business
May 21, 2015
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has warned of impending cuts, including the closing of 15 of 22 state parks. Photographer: Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Six years after the recession ended, many U.S. states are hard pressed to balance budgets because of a sluggish recovery and their own policy decisions. The fiscal fragility raises questions about how they will weather the next economic downturn.
A majority of states are making cuts, tapping reserves or facing shortfalls despite an improving national economy and stock markets at record levels, according to Standard & Poors and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State revenue hasn’t rebounded to a prerecession peak adjusted for inflation, and other factors are putting pressure on budgets.
Alaska, Oklahoma and energy-producing states saw receipts fall with global oil prices. Kansas overestimated revenue after tax cuts, while New Jersey faces a shortfall thanks to unfunded pensions. Even some Republican governors have championed tax increases to avoid further diminishing services curtailed during the 18-month recession, the deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
“The extent of the weakness is really impressive,” said Donald Boyd, who tracks state finances at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, New York. “There’s a lot of pressure on governors and legislators.”
Thirty-two states faced budget gaps in fiscal 2015 or 2016 or both, according to an April 27report by Standard & Poors. The fiscal year ends June 30 in all but four states.

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